Application of Stereotypes – revisited

Back in December last year I wrote about the Application of Stereotypes.

All Americans have big hair and perfect teethDo they?  Not in my experience.
The English only bath once a weekHighly unlikely, don’t you think?
Australians are all binge drinkersAs a nation we have a well documented problem in this regard, yes, but to tar us all with the same brush?

Recently I wrote about people’s reactions to a family of mixed hue in Yes, they are mine.

Even after 10 months, I find myself still infuriated by the use of stereotyping in our case.  Furthermore, my feathers are still ruffled that no-one in officialdom seemed to think the words I objected to were stereotyping, or quite simply the people I spoke to didn’t understand the concept of stereotyping.  As I reflect back, I wonder how many of us in life are subjected to stereotyping in our daily life.

Some stereotyping is now illegal in Australia.  “She is young, she’ll get married and have children and leave, don’t employ her” is one such example.  However, just because something is illegal, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen!

How do we give up our stereotypical perspectives and look at individuals as individuals?  Stereotypes are like a sensory shorthand we use.  We see a snake and we assume it is poisonous.  Sensible use of stereotyping, don’t you think?  After all, better to be safe than sorry and get bitten!  Should we do the same with people?  Yes, there are undoubtedly some circumstances in life where it may be a safety issue to apply a stereotype: confronted by a guy with a gun in the middle of the night in a dark street, I’m unlikely to ask him if he is enjoying his evening stroll, I know I am going to stereotype him as a mugger at the very least and take appropriate protective measures.

Putting such unusual circumstances to one side, however, we still stereotype and often completely erroneously!  I was once told all atheists “believe in” abortion!  We do?  This was news to me and would be, I am sure, to a lot of other atheists!

Asylum seekers are stereotyped.  SBS recently had a great series which Miss O 1 has been studying at school, titled “Go back where you came from“.  The episodes can be viewed on-line from that link.  I recommend it to anyone with an interest in the area of asylum seekers specifically.

Have you had any experiences of being stereotyped because of your age, religion, ethnicity or gender that you would like to share?  Even your fashion choices can lead to stereotyping: look at how often how a woman dressed is raised in a rape case, for example.

What stereotypes do you know you hold and try to remove from your thought processes?  Many of the stereotypical thoughts we hold we “inherited” from our parents or social environment growing up.

Have you thrown any stereotypes away when you have discovered they are wrong?  This question was inspired by Amelia on Surprised by Hindi.  In her case, there wasn’t a stereotype involved, but it prompted me to reflect today.

How much of discrimination and prejudice is based in stereotyping?

15 comments on “Application of Stereotypes – revisited

  1. As long as people see the world through myopic lenses, stereotypes will exist. When people realize that stereotypes are insulting they should take a deep breath and move on. 🙂


  2. Our brains have so many thoughts streaming through at the speed of light they would crash if we could not rely on stored information about related subject matter to fill in gaps about the subject at hand.

    It’s an automatic, sub-conscious process that dates back to the time when woolly mammoths roamed the Earth. When confronted with an enormous beast, there were only a few critical pieces of information the caveman’s brain wanted ~ it didn’t have time to play “21 Questions” (or sit down for a game of BlackJack). It needed to know, as quickly as possible, answers to two questions:

    * “Is it a carnivore, an omnivore, or an herbivore?”

    * “Is it hungry?”

    Even though the days of cavemen and sabre-tooth tigers are long gone, our ANTs encourage us to be conservative as we move through our daily lives, following the cautious maxim: Once bitten, twice shy.

    My very first post dealt with “labels” . . . if you’re interested:


    • Very good article, Nancy. If we ignore the labels people place on us, that is a good thing for our inner well-being. However, when life decisions affecting our life are made by others based on steretypes they hold about us, it is not so good.

      Personally, anyone can stereotype me all they like – I’m not concerned on a personal level at all. However, when officialdom, which is supposed to not stereotype under various instruments of legislation, stereotype my family or I and make decision according to their stereotypes rather than the facts, THEN I am not happy!

      I know this doesn’t just happen to us, it happens in many places all the time, legislation or not.

      I shared that article of yours on Stumble – you might have a few hits by the look of it! It says 692 now, but I’m not sure if that is counting hits from 2010 or not?


      • Thanks for the STUMBLE! I did notice lots of visits to that article yesterday . . . but no comments.

        You are RIGHT . . . but here’s the thing.

        If we feel like we are walking around with a bulls eye on our forehead because we are X (female, gay, black, white, orange, yellow, green, etc.) then ANYTIME someone treats us “unfairly” we presume it’s because of that specific characteristic.

        And in many cases, it is UNRELATED.

        Sometimes we don’t get the job or the 2nd piece of pie BECAUSE we are NOT a good fit for the position, or because there is only 1 position and 17 qualified applicants, or because we remind the hiring partner of his mother in law.

        If we assume that the ONLY reason we didn’t get the job is because of X . . . then we not only walk around with a bulls eye on our forehead . . . but we start to get a “chip on our shoulder.”


      • Given my age, I came up through the ranks when a lot of women would think they were at a gender disadvantage. I never thought that and used to advise women to NOT go into an interview with that mindset or they would not perform as well at interview and consequently not get the job. So I agree with you on that score!

        I contend it is a little different when you have a government document stating they used stereotyping in a decision. Especially infuriating when such use is actually against the domestic laws of our nation! 🙂


      • Absolutely! Our governments should follow the laws that govern the rest of us.


  3. Stereotyping people is an interesting point. I thought Australians were BBQ kings!

    Brits are usually Stereotyped for not bothering to learn the language of their host country or indeed any other language except their own. I get really angry when I have a problem and people say to me. “just typical, none of you Brits bother to learn the language”
    and it’s ovften from other SMUG Brits who have!

    Another is all Eastern Europeans are likely to rip you off or mug you. Don’t trust them as far as you can throw them!


    • Thanks for some interesting personal examples, Pip. We know all about nationalities being stereotyped given Mr O is Nigerian and I have an Irish heritage! Here tbe “Poms” (Bits) are stereotyped as “whinging poms”. I’m not familiar with the Eastern European stereotype.

      At least you wouldn’t need to learn a new language here. I can understand locals wanting new residents to learn at least some of the local language but I also know how hard that is for some of us. I know ONE Yoruba word after all this time!!


  4. Being a Christian I get stereotyped as a humorousless, fundamental, Bible bashing fanatic… Pffft! I love to have a laugh, however the rest of the label is true… Don’t get me talking about God I’ll be on a Jesus roll for hours and you will want to stab me in the eye. I get that all the time.


    • You are the most humourFULL Christian I have ever happened upon! 😆 Anyone who reads your writing could not possibly categorise you as “humourless”! Your going to the movies articles had me in stitches!

      As far as the “roll” goes – I promise not to stab you in the eye, provided you don’t roll all over me! 😀 😀


  5. Someone is drinking my share, that’s for sure!

    Questioning stereotypes has to begin when kids are young, at home, at school, and in the community.

    i teach ethics at primary school, and the Year 6 kids are well aware of what stereotypes are. And my own kids have started to think about what they say about gender, race, age, etc. We all have to put it on the agenda, talk about it openly, and constantly challenge our own ways of thinking. .


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